I once worked for an apparel company (Spirit Activewear… because, well; I don’t owe them anything and they don’t deserve an air of anonymity) where I was employed in a position that I was overqualified for.  After working hard, I was told that I was being replaced by someone; a younger, white cisgender woman with much less experience than me.  I was then told that the owner felt “uncomfortable” working with me, and that I was being demoted and replaced (although they wanted me to train my replacement) to be “laid off.”


Unfortunately, this is not the first time (and probably won’t be the last time.)


Once I started officially and publicly transitioning within the workplace (I always lived in my truth; it was simply when I decided to give it a label), none of my past accomplishments, work history, or professional background mattered.  It was like it was erased at the blink of an eye. 



Working and being employed while being black AND trans was, has, and continues to be a challenge; as many employers refuse to look past the intersection of my identity.  Even while living in California, which is one of 21 states that has protection against discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, finding adequate employment that fully encompassed and represented my professional background was extremely difficult.  I would be told blatant lies and given lazy excuses as to reasons of rushed interviews and why I “wouldn’t be a right fit”; even having a potential employer look at my resume and extensive background and tell me that I would be more qualified for a lower position in a completely unrelated department because of my “personality”.  But what I came to find out time and time again through the coded language and rhetoric that the reasons were never professional, but personal.  


Being black and trans, I have to work three times as hard for half the credit; often having to go above and beyond while peers around me can rest on mediocrity, lackluster skills, and their cis-privilege.  I immediately saw my income and salary slashed; becoming the one in seven trans individuals who made $10,000 or less a year than cisgender counterparts. (Cunningham, 2018)  I realized that my stability within my industry, one that I had dedicated a decade to was gone, as I was unable to attain employment of any type; regardless of the level.  


Trans people of color are more likely to be unemployed at a rate of four times the national average. And even being employed isn’t a safety net, as 1 in 4 trans persons have reported being fired.  


What is the alternative? Starting your own business?  Even as an entrepreneur (more so now), I am faced with the intersection of misogynoir and transphobia as I strike out on my own. While I’ve had to work tirelessly hard to personally move my business forward, I have watched cis-men and women with far less qualifications, less ambition, and even less work-ethic seemingly handed resources and connections.  I’ve had to maneuver the muddied waters of prejudice that often slow down my progress. 


The rocky, rollercoaster ride of my career and work journey has brought me to my current point: working a job that, while (somewhat) overqualified for, is one that is not only secure but allows me flexibility as I build my own businesses.  It doesn’t pay me nearly what I am worth, but it is good enough.  


While my journey is unique, as I have persisted and continue to fight and persevere through, many of my trans brothers and sisters aren’t as fortunate.  The fight for fair and equitable employment continues to be a hard and long fight; one that has lead to the Supreme Court (with two key discrimination cases being concluded next year.)  It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, but that will never stop me from showing that regardless of my identity; I will almost always be the hardest working woman and person in the room.  

Works Cited

Cunningham, G. B. (2018, November 18). Economy+Business. Retrieved from The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/transgender-americans-still-face-workplace-discrimination-despite-some-progress-and-support-of-companies-like-apple-106140